Friday, September 22, 2023

Independence wins fifth straight regional title

Independence’s 3-0 win over Orrville in Saturday’s Division III Barberton Regional championship match lacked the drama of Thursday’s five-set semifinal win, but the Blue Devils won’t complain as they pack their bags for a fifth straight trip to the state Final Four in Dayton.

The Blue Devils improved to 26-0 with a 25-13, 25-17, 25-17 win over Orrville that clinched a fifth straight regional championship.

“Winning five straight regional titles means a lot to our program,” said senior setter Abby Avila. “It isn’t easy winning five straight. This shows how hard we work every day and how bad we want to make it back to states every year.”

Independence, the state’s top-ranked Division III team, got all it could handle from No. 6 Crestview in a battle of undefeated teams in the regional semifinals.

The Blue Devils rallied from a three-point deficit in the fifth set to beat the Rebels.

Saturday, Independence got off to a fast start and never looked back in beating the Red Riders.

“Thursday night was definitely tough for us at the end,” Avila said. “I am so proud of my team for fighting down the stretch, especially when we were down. We all remained calm and just kept talking and didn’t give up for any ball.”

Avila and her senior classmates will make their fourth straight appearance in the state Final Four.

The Blue Devils have finished as the state runner-up in 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Avila hopes to pin down that elusive state title next weekend.

“It is definitely different going to states this year knowing I am a senior and it is my last time,” she said. “Mentally, I just have to help my young teammates out. It’s intimidating playing in the big Wright State gym. Me being a leader and encouraging them will help them with the nerves. Taking it one point and one set at a time is all we can do.”

Independence became just the 11th school in OHSAA history to play in five straight state Final Fours and just the third public school to accomplish the feat.

The Blue Devils open the Final Four against Frankfort Adena (25-2) on Friday at 2:00 p.m. All Final Four matches are played at Wright State University.


Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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